Songwriting Checklist: 10 Essential Components to a Song
You may be wondering what actually goes into creating a song. If you take out the lyrics and an instrument or two, what are you left with? How do you piece everything together to create something amazing that people want to listen to over and over?
Understanding the various components of a song can help students and parents alike gain a deeper appreciation for music and the creative process. In songwriting lessons at Bach to Rock, we teach our students how each part of a song works to blend sounds perfectly together.
What are the different parts of a song?
Here are 10 essential components to a song and how each one works. Not all of these components go into every song, but that’s what helps make each piece unique!
Lyrics are the words that are sung or spoken in a song. Lyrics can tell a story, convey an emotion, or communicate a message. From the very first intro verse, all the way to the end, each word has been carefully chosen for that particular part of the song.
The lyrics are often written similar to poetry, as the words rhyme and seamlessly match with the rhythmic beats of the song. Most of the most memorable and timeless songs are considered to be so popular due to their incredibly meaningful lyrics on top of a catchy melody and hook.
The melody is the main tune or theme of a song and is usually carried by the vocals or a lead instrument. It is the part of the song that most people can hum or sing along to. It’s the part that gets stuck in your head! A great melody can help make a song memorable.
Rhythm refers to the beat and flow of a song. It is created by the combination of the tempo- which is the speed of the song, the meter – which is the pattern of strong and weak beats, and the timing of the various musical elements.
The tempo and beats dictate the speed of the song. It also drastically changes the “feel” as rhythm is a large factor in the emotional expression of a song. That is why fast songs with strong beats are often used for motivational support such as when working out or going for a run; whereas people may be drawn to slow songs when they are feeling mellow or sad.
As music highly influences our emotions, we are often attracted to a song because of the beat. As for the rhythm, it is essentially the musical beat that is created by the other instruments.
- Chord Progression
These are the chords that accompany the melody of the song that you are creating. Chords also often make up the melodic rhythm of the song.
The same melody played on different chord progressions will create a different “feel” and emotion for the melody. For example, a minor progression will make a melody sound sad and melancholic, whereas the same melody on a major progression will sound cheerful and inspiring. This is how some musicians alter the expression of a popular song into their own version.
In a sense, the melody is the centerpiece of the song, whereas the chord progression is the theme of the song and will significantly affect the emotional tune the song is trying to convey.
Harmony refers to the combination of pitches and chords that are played or sung at the same time. Harmony helps to add depth and complexity to a song. It’s what happens when unique sounds blend and begin to create music.
The instrumentation of a song refers to the type and number of instruments that are used. This can include everything from drums and guitar to brass and woodwinds.
This could even be recording a sound of your own, such as a tap on a desk, and digitally turning it into a sound used in your song.
The bridge is the section of a song that typically occurs between the verse and the chorus. The chorus, also known as the refrain, is the strongest section of a song’s structure. It’s the simple, catchy, punchy part that is memorable and is repeated several times throughout the song.
The bridge makes the transition to the chorus and helps to add variety and contrast to the song. It can often be a place for the songwriter to explore a different melody or harmony leading into the familiar chorus.
A solo is a section of a song where a single instrument or vocalist takes the spotlight. Solos can be a great way for musicians to showcase their skills and add an extra layer of interest to a song. Solos can be mesmerizing and further draw listeners into the song.
- Spoken Word
Some songs may include a spoken word section, or interlude, in which the artist speaks rather than sings the lyrics. Spoken word stems from poetry performance and can be a powerful way to add emphasis or convey a message.
The production of a song refers to all of the technical elements that go into creating the final recorded version. This can include things like mixing, mastering, and the addition of effects. Producing a recorded studio version of a song is different than giving a live performance. In a recorded version, more attention is given to the nuances and details of the song, whereas a live performance allows for spontaneity and unscripted moments.
Songwriting helps students bring their creativity to life.
Whether your child is just starting out in music or is a seasoned performer, understanding the building blocks of a good song is a valuable tool in their musical journey. Songwriting is an outlet for expressing feelings or experiences, and usually tell a story.
The song may just start as a kernel of an idea, but by delving into those feelings, it can a become a larger manifestation of the idea, resulting in a song. If your child is into writing songs, it’s important to encourage him or her to explore their creativity by writing down their feelings, and capturing melodies or beats that may spontaneously come to them. Coupled with an understanding of the 10 elements of songwriting, students can embellish their ideas, and follow the framework to transform their creativity into a song.